Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Walkin' the dog

The pug and I hit Balboa Park for an early evening walk this week.

While other pups ran their heads off at the dog park, Nero took a more relaxed approach.
If you've ever flown into San Diego then you know that planes buzz Balboa Park as they approach the city's downtown airport.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

San Onofre

We threw care to the wind and headed an hour north to the San Onofre State Beach, 3,000 acres of coastline and cliffs immediately north of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
This might be my favorite SoCal beach so far. I really like its rural isolated feel. There's plenty of room for people to spread out. And the natural scenery is spectacular.

This really cool succulent was growing everywhere along the base of the sandstone cliffs. Anybody know its name?
The twin bubble silhouettes in the background are part of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station which supplies electricity to 1.5 million Southern Californians.
Rex doing his best imitation of a mountain goat.

Another magical California sunset.

They don't make 'em like they used to

Many of my relatives on my mother's side of the family are gathering today in Lafayette, La., for something called a jubilee - a celebration marking the anniversary of when Catholic nuns take their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

My maternal family is full of women who wear habits. At one time when I was young there were as many as five of them - two aunts, two great aunts and a cousin. They were all members of the Sisters of Mount Carmel, a teaching order.

This is Sr. Margaret Mary, one of the great aunts, who spent much of her life teaching at Catholic high schools for girls in southern Louisiana. When this photo was taken in 1955, she already had been a nun for 22 years.

Here she is in 1972 with me and my twin sister. We were all dressed up for my aunt's wedding.

Notice that she's ditched the veil and is wearing a skirt short enough to show some leg. This was only a few years after Vatican II, and Margaret Mary had embraced much of the revolution that was sweeping through the American Roman Catholic church.

That made her a bit of a black sheep in both her religious order, which largely stuck to tradition, and in our family. She earned multiple undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and spent several years studying at UC Berkeley.

The 1980 rape and murder of three U.S. nuns in El Salvador by soldiers of the U.S.-backed government helped to galvanize her opposition to U.S. foreign policy in Central America and affinity for Liberation Theology. You can imagine the arguments she provoked at family gatherings in the mid-1980s in deeply pro-Reagan southern Louisiana.

(CLARIFICATION: I originally referenced the Reagan administration in the above paragraph but, as my friend John noted in his attached comment, the crimes in El Salvador occurred at the end of President Carter's watch. Thanks John.)
Here she is in 2006. We both found ourselves living in New Orleans in the mid-1990s and developed a close relationship over periodic Sunday brunches in the 11th-floor restaurant of the Canal Place hotel, overlooking the French Quarter and Mississippi River. We'd sit there for hours, sipping champagne and talking about politics, theology, history and our personal lives. She's one of the few relatives I have who made an effort to really know me.

When I came out to her early in our friendship, she was thrilled. She had always had gay and lesbian friends, and she was practically giddy to find out that one of her own relatives was out of the closet.
Here's my aunt, Sr. Robert Joseph, in a 1961 photo. My Maw Maw and Paw Paw (grandparents in Cajun) are in the middle, my
Aunt Roberta is on the right and my parents are in the back.

Here she is again holding my twin sister a few years later. (If you're wondering about her name, she chose it when she took her vows -- to honor her older brother who was killed in World War II).

She spent her career teaching mentally disabled students at St. Michael's Special School in New Orleans.

Robert Joseph always has been a more traditional nun -- I never developed much of a relationship with her beyond the obligatory family niceties. That probably has something to do with her shy and understated personality.
Despite living most of her life in one of the most amazing culinary cities of the world, she'll pick baked chicken and steamed veggies at Piccadilly Cafeteria over brunch at Brennan's any day.

Here she is in 2004.

We ate dinner together at a Shoney's (her choice of course) a few years earlier while driving from New Orleans to Cajun Country for a family gathering. It was one of the few times that we've spent more than a few minutes alone with each other.

At one point in the conversation, she asked me what I liked to do for fun. I told her about my roller blading outings, the history books I was reading and the time I spent on weekends people-watching in the French Quarter.

When I turned the question on her, she paused, then described a stoic pampering routine: taking a long, hot bath (sans bubbles, scented salts or aromatherapy candles) then clipping her toe nails. That's right . . . her idea of fun was clipping her toe nails!

As different as Sr. Margaret Mary and Sr. Robert Joseph are, they share the central defining element of their lives - devotion to a single mission of service. Today, Margaret Mary, now in her mid-90s, celebrates an amazing 75 years as a nun, and Robert Joseph, who is in her 70s, marks a 60th anniversary.

They've withstood seismic shifts in the religious and lay worlds and a host of personal challenges, including being forced to relocate permanently to other cities after Hurricane Katrina.

While I can't say that I understand their decisions to become nuns (R.J. was only 13 when she went into the convent) and remain in the order, I can't help being awestruck by the rarity of their loyalty and endurance.

Happy jubilee!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

At least they beat evil Bama

It's a big weekend for Tiger sports.

The LSU gymnastics team finished in fifth place in last night's final round of the national championship tournament in Athens, Ga. The result gave the team its best finish in 20 years.

The SEC dominated the competition, with Georgia winning its fourth crown in a row, followed by Utah, Stanford, Florida, LSU and Alabama.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the LSU track and field teams were racking up the victories in the Penn Relays, one of the nation's premier collegiate track events.

The Lady Tigers won three events - 4x100 relay, shuttle hurdle relay and 1,600-meter sprint medley relay- while the men took the 1,600-meter sprint medley relay.

With their three wins yesterday, the Lady Tigers became the most winning women's team in the Penn Relay's 114-year history with 38 titles.

This year's NFL draft isn't shaping up to be quite as big for the National Champion Tigers as the 2007 event was when LSU landed four players in the first round, including No. 1 pick quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

So far, defensive superstar Glenn Dorsey - the most decorated football player in school history - is the only LSU player chosen in this year's first round, going as the fifth pick to Kansas City. The move thwarted rumored plans by the New Orleans Saints to snag the Louisiana native with its No. 7 first-round pick.

Dorsey became LSU's 30th first-round NFL draft pick ever, and his selection extended the team's record of delivering at least one first-round player to five years.

Four other Tigers are expected to be selected in this weekend's draft.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

And you thought I only cared about football

Perhaps LSU's gymnastics team will be able to do what the Lady Tigers basketball team couldn't do.

The flip-flop girls finished third in today's national championship semifinals to move into the final Super Six round. The teams compete on Friday in Athens, Ga., for the title.

Despite the squad's long history of success, this is the first time the team has made it to the final round of the competition. The appearance is long overdue for coach D-D Breaux, who has led the team for 30 years and taken the Tigers to the NCAA tournament 19 times.

Next up: Women's Outdoor Track team (ranked No.1) will be competing for its 14th national title and the Men's Outdoor Track team (ranked No. 2) will be chasing its fifth crown. The NCAA tournament starts June 11 at Drake University - Rex's alma mater - in Des Moines.

Both teams finished in the runner-up spot in the Indoor National Championships in mid-March. This is shaping up to be a historic battle with Texas A&M, whose men are currently ranked No. 1 and women are No. 2. The Aggies are led by former legendary LSU coach Pat Henry.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Rex made this video not long after I bought my car last year, and I thought it was time to share it with the rest of the world.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tecate, Mexico

After our hike we crossed the border into Tecate, a city of nearly 60,000 less than an hour's drive from Tijuana. It's named for the river that flows through it and is famous for its namesake beer.

Click on the map or any other image to view it larger. The green arrow marks our destination.
The local beer's distinctive eagle logo and red color are found all over the city's compact central core.
This large JFK medallion greets gabachos on the Mexican side of the border.
There's a big Catholic church near the central square.
There wasn't much going on in town. The streets and sidewalks were pretty quiet, and we encountered only a handful of other gringo tourists.
The brewery is huge, stretching for several city blocks. We found a beer garden next to the building but it was closed.
Dan insisted on visiting this laberinto de zapatos.
This is the entrance to the city hall, or Palacio Municipal as the locals call it.
In the states, people write "Please wash me" on filthy car windows. In Tecate, they write "Busco sexo," which means "I'm looking for sex."
Rex is obsessed with the border fence. He can't get within a few miles of it without walking up to it, touching it or posing next to it.

Sunday hike

Our trip to the south-central part of San Diego County with Chris and Dan took us through lightly wooded pastures in the Cleveland National Forest.
Dan was trying out his new camera
Plenty of wildflowers were still in bloom.
While Dan and I explored the flora and fauna . . .
Chris and Rex perched on some rocks and contemplated their navels and other important global matters.


Overpriced drinks and pseudo-exclusive guest lists have finally arrived in Hillcrest, San Diego's main gayborhood. A new bar/restaurant complex named Universal just opened, and we gave it a spin Saturday night.
It's safe to say that Rex and I were the only ones in the crowd wearing plaid flannel. We spent the first part of the night sipping $10 drinks next to a fire pit until the contraption malfunctioned and spit up a flame-ball that singed the hair of a nearby fashionista.We weren't sure what the hospital bed was all about until a couple of sexy/naughty "nurses" in skimpy Spandex uniforms jumped into it.
The place features a high-end look rarely found outside the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego's trendy downtown entertainment area.
While it's not the kind of place where we would hang out, I'm sure plenty of people will enjoy the bar. The best part for us was the take-out pizza joint located next door. The slices were good, and the prices were pretty cheap.